You’ve likely heard of Calendar Time, a common preschool activity where each day, teachers ask students about the days, weeks, and months. “What was yesterday? What’s today? What’s tomorrow?” As old as the practice is, it doesn’t have a lasting effect on young children because they can’t conceptualize that time is sequential. More impactful is using evidence-based methods encouraged by your local Montessori preschool.
An easy way to help your preschooler conceptualize time is by asking them to guess how long certain tasks take. Vary the time units with each task, so your preschooler can learn the difference between seconds, minutes, and hours. You might start off with short tasks that only take seconds, so that your preschooler can count aloud. Jumping immediately into minutes and hours requires longer focus.
For example, you could ask your preschooler to guess how many seconds it will take to walk from the school to your car, or how many seconds it will take you to tie your shoelaces. Then you can ask how many minutes it will take to walk to the park or around the block, and how many hours it will be until dinner or movie night.
The goal of guessing games is to give your preschooler a concrete experience to reflect upon, which is a key component of the Montessori philosophy. Once they begin to understand what a second, minute, or hour “feels” like, they start conceptualizing what it means when time is used as a reference point, such as when you say dinner is in three hours. And once they master that, you can introduce days, weeks, and months by pointing them out on a calendar.
Daily Paper Chain
A fun Montessori preschool activity that helps children visualize time is maintaining a paper chain, with each chain representing a day. This project is commonly used in kindergarten for students to count how many days they’ve been in class, but your preschooler can also participate. An ideal time to begin is the first day of school, but it’s also a good idea to measure out an entire month.
You can create a chain for each week, then at the end of the month have your preschooler lay them out in rows to visualize the four weeks in one month. This combines short-term tracking (weekly) with long-term tracking (monthly). If you don’t have room for paper chains, you can use Post-It notes on the wall to create a number-less grid.
Once your preschooler completes their chains, you can point out how calendars are substitutes. Each square represents a paper chain link, and your preschooler can cross off the appropriate one at the end of the day. After some time, you can gradually introduce dates and months.